Are we under-producing batteries?

They power our smartphones, laptops, tablets, and the growing number of electric cars. Batteries are everywhere. But The Toronto Star has some bad news about them; the world might not be producing enough batteries to keep up with the consumer demand of the “smart” era.

The paper asserts that “All of the new demand from North America, Europe and Asia is constrained at the moment by a market that remains heavily dependent on a few producers.”

A large contributor to the new demand comes from the electric car market.

“Today, there are more than 3 million electric vehicles on the road worldwide; by 2025, Volkswagen AG alone plans to build as many as 3 million electric vehicles per year. Those vehicle batteries — in addition to storage batteries for homes, businesses and utilities — will have to come from somewhere,” says The Toronto Star.

The Star says that a key player in the battery shortage is South Korea: because of some change in government policy, the country’s main battery producers Samsung SDI and LG Chem – two of the leading international manufacturers – are “prioritizing sales in their home country.” Meaning, relying on batteries coming out of South Korea might have disappointing results in the future. The Star explains that U.S buyers in particular “often rely on Korean-made batteries. Almost 60 per cent of the utility-scale batteries deployed in the U.S. last year were made by Samsung SDI and LG Chem.”

Larash Johnson, chief technology officer of Stem Inc, one of America’s largest U.S battery companies, told The Toronto Star that “There is definitely some tightness in the global market. It’s one of the reason we’re looking for new suppliers.”

Another large battery supplier is Tesla, which has a sizeable battery factory in Nevada. Despite its high capacity for production, Tesla “can pick and choose who they want to deliver to” and “they are not delivering to everyone.” As The Star says, “Together, Tesla and the Korean battery-making giants can expect to enjoy intense demand.”

These three companies might have a near monopoly on battery production, but another potential source for production expansion is China. New factories are popping up across the country with huge capacity for production.

Source: thestar.com – For now, at least, the world isn’t making enough batteries
Published: October 5, 2018

Get ready for the Pixel 3

On October 9th, Google will be announcing the upcoming Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones. According to TechRadar, excited customers can also begin pre-ordering the devices immediately following the announcement.

The news apparently comes from an email received by Android Central. As Tech Radar explains, “The email also apparently shows a number three, which transitions between black, white and mint colors, which seems an obvious hint that the Google Pixel 3 range might come in those shades.”

The mint theory is backed up by leaked images of a white Google Pixel 3 phone with a mint-coloured power button. Mint is not a colour commonly seen in smartphones, so this is a potentially unique design that could stir up some real attention.

TechRadar says that Android Central’s email ended by suggesting “some things to ask Google Assistant, namely ‘What’s this announcement about?’, ‘When are you making this announcement?’, and “How can I found out more about this announcement?’ … The answers don’t give much away, but one response is ‘Looks like there might be something about a new phone – and maybe, just maybe a few other new things.’”

Source: techradar.com – Google Pixel 3 pre-orders apparently start on October 9
Published: October 5, 2018

The CRTC will not take a stand against content piracy

Schooley Mitchell complaintsAccording to The Chronicle Herald, the FairPlay Canada coalition – a group of media organizations that includes Bell Canada, Rogers, the CBC, and more – was shut down by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in its effort to fight “content pirates.” On Tuesday, October 2nd the CRTC said it does not have the authority to police the activities that FairPlay Canada is fighting against.

FairPlay Canada originally asked the CRTC for help back in January of 2018. The coalition wanted the CRTC to “help protect their ownership and licensing rights by setting up an independent agency to help locate websites with pirated material.”  The Chronicle Herald explains that the coalition “also wanted the CRTC to require internet providers to block access to pirated material.”

The CRTC said in is ruling that is agrees “piracy causes harm to the Canadian broadcasting system and the economy” but unfortunately it does not have the jurisdiction to intervene under the Copyright Act.

“There are other avenues that are more suitable to address this issue, such as the reviews of the Copyright Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act,” the commission decided.

Source: thechronicleherald.ca – CRTC rejects call to block content pirates, cites lack of jurisdiction
Published: October 2, 2018

California reinstates net neutrality

According to CNBC, on September 30th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that would restore open internet protections or “net neutrality” in his state. These laws were repealed federally in December 2017.

By doing this, California is clashing with the decision of the Federal Communications Commission. Before the bill was passed, FCC chairman Ajit Pai made a speech calling the legislation “a radical, anti-consumer internet regulation bill that would impose restrictions even more burdensome than those adopted by the FCC in 2015.”

On the other hand, Gigi Sohn a former senior aide to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, told CNBC the California law “is now the model for all future state and federal legislation … this is what internet users across the political spectrum have said they want by overwhelming majorities.”

Needless to say, opinions are torn over whether California made the right choice.

Without net neutrality, says CNBC, ISPs have “sweeping new powers to recast how Americans use the internet, as long as they disclose changes.” However, since the new rules came into federal effect in June, providers have not made changes in access.

Source: cnbc.com – California governor signs state law to reinstate ‘net neutrality’
Published: September 30, 2018

Why it’s important to keep current with device updates

It can be annoying when your smartphone, laptop or tablet sends you repetitive notifications about those pesky software updates. They are easy to ignore, rather than taking the time out of your day to update. If you are one of the many people who do this – because we know you aren’t alone – Popular Science has some advice for you.

In an article attempting to convince you not to ignore these updates, Popular Science says, “Gadget updates take care of a lot of problems, but their most important application might be security. When disasters strike, they usually hit hardware that’s running outdated software. To prevent this, manufacturers will regularly roll out crucial patches that protect your laptop, phone, and other gadgets from the latest threats.”

So while you might not care about getting the latest slew of emojis, there is some real benefit in updating your device. In fact, it could be a real safety concern if you don’t. On top of that, a lot of performance issues you might be experiencing could be related to not installing updates.

“If your gadget suffers from poor battery life, can’t connect to Wi-Fi properly, keeps displaying strange characters on screen, a software patch might sort out the issue,” Popular Science explains.

Each device is different in terms of when and how many updates you are likely to receive. iOS devices get updates much more frequently than Pixel phones, for example. If you are an iOS 12 user, you even now have the option of using the new Automatic Updates feature, selectable on the Software Update screen. By choosing to enable this feature, your device will “automatically apply patches overnight, waiting until the device is idle, plugged into a power charger, and connected to a Wi-Fi network.”

Source: popsci.com – Stop putting off your device updates – here’s why
Published: September 23, 2018

Square Payroll is now mobile

Launched back in 2009, Square is a popular merchant services aggregator that has become very popular with small businesses and retailers. In 2015, it introduced Square Payroll, a desktop service which allows its customers to process payrolls. Now, three years later, the service is going mobile.

ZD Net explains that using Square Payroll mobile, “Employees clock in and out of their shift via integrated time cards on Square’s Register app. When the pay period closes, the business owner imports employee hours and Square’s payroll service calculates applicable taxes and sends the funds out to workers. Employees have the ability to enter their own tax details upon setup, and state and federal payroll taxes are filed automatically for the business.”

For Square Payroll customers who are considering going mobile, the company assured in a recent blog post that the experience will be very similar. “Import your timecards or enter hours, submit your pay run, and leave the rest to us (we’ll take care of filing, paying, and withholding your payroll taxes). And now you can easily do all of this on your mobile device, no matter where you are,” Square assured.

If you use Square Payroll, the process may have just become a little easier for you. It also showcases the growing trend of having access to everything from our smartphones at the drop of a dime.

Source: paymentsjournal.com – Square Payroll Goes Mobile
Published: September 26, 2018

Do the new iPhones have connectivity issues?

According to Business Insider, new owners of the iPhone XS and XS Max, which were released on September 21st, are complaining the devices have poor WiFi and cell signal strength.

Business Insider says, “Some are reporting that their older iPhones like the iPhone 7 and iPhone X had better reception strength than their new iPhones — or, simply, that the new iPhones don’t impress with their wireless reception.”

These reports seem to be coming from all carriers, meaning it is not a question of network or region. In seeming confirmation with the user reports, wireless technology blog WiWavelength found that “demonstrating in a laboratory environment how the signal strength on the iPhone XS is significantly weaker than it was with last year’s iPhone 8 and iPhone X devices.”

If you’ve been following the new iPhone devices, you might remember that the XS and XS Max have one more antenna band than the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. The poor connectivity is coming to a surprise to those who expected better from this new generation of devices.

Worried about the new iPhones? Business Insider says to be patient: “These new iPhones have only just begun to roll out into the real world, and Apple could potentially fix the signal strength issues with a software update after gathering user data. Something similar happened once before, with the iPhone 7, and Apple was able to successfully fix it with a patch.”

Source: businessinsider.com – iPhone XS and XS Max buyers are complaining that their new devices have bad WiFi and cell signal
Published: September 24, 2018

iPhone prices are likely to rise

There are always new promotional deals on iPhones, so it might seem like you are getting some kind of steal on the newest devices. However, according to TheStreet, “the average selling price for the phone will be higher in the second half of 2018 than analysts anticipated.”

Analyst firm Nomura has been tracking the average selling price – or ASP – of the iPhone. While it expected the newest variations of the device to be selling for USD $780 during fiscal 2019 – Wall Street estimated $757 – it turns out the device has actually been selling for between $800 and $830. The ASP is rising internationally as well.

At the same time, TheStreet says “U.S. telecom companies like Verizon Communications Inc.  and AT&T Inc. have been slightly more aggressive for the iPhone XS and XS Max this year than they were last year for the iPhone 8.”

While the phones are growing more and more expensive, companies are pushing promotions to try and entice you to get the newest iPhone anyway.

Nomura told TheStreet that “The common offer is a credit up to $700 with an additional line of service.”

Source: thestreet.com – iPhone Prices to Rise Even as Telecoms Offer More Aggressive Promos
Published: September 17, 2018

Telus is still Canada’s fastest network

For the second year in a row, Vancouver-based carrier Telus has secured the title of fastest mobile network in Canada, as rated by PC Mag. Bell Canada came in second place, followed by Rogers Communications in third.

As explained by Mobile Syrup, “Telus averaged download speeds of 174.67Mbps across the country, and was able to achieve maximum download speeds of 742.26Mbps in select regions” and “in terms of average upload speeds, Telus came in first with speeds of 31.48Mbps, Bell came in second with 30.68Mbps and Rogers came in third with 27.63Mbps.”

PC Mag’s report, where these statistics were published, also disclosed some very interesting information. For one, The Big Three Canadian carriers all reported being able to provide their subscribers with an average of 99 percent time on LTE when using data. As well, PC Mag has announced that “Kingston, Ontario not only has the fastest wireless speeds in Canada, but it also provides subscribers with the fastest wireless speeds in North America.” North-America’s second fastest city is also in Ontario, and is listed as the tri-city area of Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge.

If you’re wondering how regional carriers performed in PC Mag’s testing, Mobile Syrup says “regional players are still competitors in the wireless market… Of course, at least one member of Canada’s Big Three was able to beat out every single regional carrier in every city where PCMag conducted its testing, but in places like Saskatchewan — home to Crown carrier SaskTel — the competition was quite close.”

Source: mobilesyrup.com – Telus Canada’s fastest mobile network for second year in a row, says report
Published: September 17, 2018

Hurricane Florence victims will receive free telecom services

According to telecompaper, wireless and prepaid customers of AT&T and Verizon who live in the areas most impacted by Hurricane Florence will be receiving free services from their carrier. This will mostly apply to customers living in the Carolinas.

AT&T will be providing unlimited talk, text, and data for its impacted customers. Likewise, Verizon will be giving free talk, text, and data to its customers effected by the storm.

Both carriers have also lifted speed caps and restrictions for first responders in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

This small but crucial act could be lifesaving, and shows just how important carriers and ISPs are in disaster situations. If not lifesaving, at the very least this service allows victims to keep their friends and families updated to their status and safety during the hurricane.

Source: AT&T, Verizon to give unlimited communications to customers affected by Hurricane Florence – telecompaper.com
Published: September 12, 2018